What are the risks of stoned driving?

Motorists and passengers in Connecticut face the danger of drunk driving accidents. However, the legalization of the recreational use of in six states and its medicinal use in 20 states has raised questions about the dangers of driving after a motorist uses marijuana.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety issued a study finding that legal limits for marijuana and driving are ineffective and that, for one state, deadly crashes involving marijuana use doubled after the drug was legalized. Specifically, researchers found that the percentage of drivers involved in deadly car crashes who used marijuana before the crash went from eight to 17 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Unlike drunk driving, there appears to be no testing mechanism to determine a safe legal limit for use of marijuana or measurement of THC in the blood stream.  After examining laboratory results of drivers arrested for marijuana-impaired driving, researchers found that there is no science indicating that drivers become impaired at a specific level of marijuana in their blood. Unlike blood alcohol content levels for drinking and driving, drivers may become impaired from marijuana at different levels.

Additionally, frequent marijuana users may have traceable THC levels in their blood even long after use while levels in infrequent users may decrease rapidly.  Moreover, as with alcohol, hours may elapse  before a test is administered for various reasons. During that time, THC levels may decline and fall below any legal limits.

Instead of relying on limits, AAA recommends that states use a positive test for recent use. Additionally, police should seek behavioral and psychological evidence of impairment that relies on the Advanced Roadside Impairment Driving Enforcement and the 50-state Drug Evaluation and Classification programs.

Like drunk driving accident victims, a person who suffers injuries from an impaired driver may be entitled to compensation for serious injuries and other losses. Prompt legal representation may be sought to determine whether a lawsuit should be filed.

Source: AAA, “Fatal road crashes involving marijuana double after state legalizes drug,” Accessed May 15, 2016

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